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Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute -- cancer study

November 17, 2006 - Oakland, CA A new study conducted by scientists at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) identifies a specific enzyme that can cause the death of cancer cells. Researchers studied the behavior of an enzyme called sphingosine phosphate lyase (SPL), which can regulate cell growth and death by lowering the levels of a natural, growth-promoting lipid called sphingosine-1-phosphate, or S1P.

The study, led by Julie Saba, M.D., Ph.D. is the first to link the SPL enzyme to cancer, and it appears in the November issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers identified SPL as a key regulator of cancer cells. They discovered that if the cancer cells were stressed by chemotherapy, SPL could be activated or "turned on" to reduce the levels of S1P, which is needed to cause cell death. "The enzyme SPL senses when a cell has sustained damage or is undergoing mutations," said Dr. Saba. "Once the enzyme is aware of these changes it responds by killing the cell. We hope to find new ways to leverage the body's own natural responses to these mutated or damaged cells to target cancer cells."

Among pediatric diseases, cancer is the leading cause of death in the United States. Approximately 9,500 new cases of cancer are expected to occur in children between infancy and 15 years of age by the end 2006.* "Although we're beginning our studies in colon cancer, we believe our research findings will have a direct impact on investigations for other cancers, including pediatric cancers," said Dr. Saba. "It is premature to suggest that SPL is the answer to curing cancer, but our research findings should dramatically advance our search for a cure," said Dr. Saba.

Dr. Saba and her team conducted their year-long research by studying a number of different human cell lines as well as human colon cancer tissues and mouse intestinal polyps. They wanted to see what happens when you increase or decrease the
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Contact: Diana Yee
dyee@mail.cho.org
510-428-3120
Children's Hospital & Research Center at Oakland
20-Nov-2006


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